The White House's unconvincing offensive on immigration

Kamala Harris.
(Image credit: Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock)

The White House has been taking a beating on the southwest border ever since Joe Biden became president. Each month, attempted illegal entries have been higher than before as the migration surge hits a 20-year high. Former President Donald Trump may visit the border before Vice President Kamala Harris, whose trip to Central America to address the "root causes" of the crisis was widely panned. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, an ambitious Republican, may build a border wall.

Now the Biden team is starting to fight back. This week the White House issued a fact sheet purporting to show progress in processing unaccompanied children in contrast with the Trump administration's "kids in cages" debacle and improvements in unifying these minors with families and sponsors.

"The Biden-Harris administration is working to rebuild our immigration system after four years of chaos and mismanagement," the statement said. "The trend of border apprehensions in May is a reduction of individuals (unique encounters) and families below the peak in 2019."

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

They are also playing some offense, celebrating DACA Day — named after former President Barack Obama's program to shield certain young undocumented immigrants from deportation, which Trump unsuccessfully sought to terminate — and challenging Congress to pass sweeping immigration reforms.

Here Biden hopes to succeed where Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush all failed on immigration (though Trump's perspective on the issue was an outlier among the three). But his administration remains in denial about the degree to which a liberal approach at the border does not just regularize inflows, it also incentives them.

So far, the White House has tried very hard to blame the border situation on random fluctuations in migration and repeat crossers skewing the numbers to make them look worse than they really are. They minimize or deny the degree to which migrants are responding to the messages they are sending about their ability to enter and remain in the United States, even if others appear willing to acknowledge it.

The 1986 bipartisan amnesty, signed into law by no less a conservative icon than Ronald Reagan, failed to stem the tide of illegal immigration. Until Biden and Harris can give a more convincing answer to why things will be different this time, conditions in Congress — and at the border — will remain perilous.

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

W. James Antle III

W. James Antle III is the politics editor of the Washington Examiner, the former editor of The American Conservative, and author of Devouring Freedom: Can Big Government Ever Be Stopped?.